|EWS Update #5 (02/24/98)
02/09/98 - 02/23/98
New England Aquarium
EARLY WARNING SYSTEM
Surveys For Right Whales
(Page sponsored and maintained by WhaleNet)
Sea surface temperature at Jacksonville Beach: 61 degrees Fahrenheit.
That usually heralds the inshore movement of loggerhead sea turtles.
Flying along in our winged aluminum can, we should begin seeing more of
the rust-colored discs with bright yellow flippers shining like jewels
on the green water. The hypnotic drone of the engines make it difficult
to stay focused as miles of ocean flow under the plane. The loggerheads,
along with dolphins and sharks, provide punctuation to a repetitious
page that goes on and on like the disciplinary assignments of grade
school. I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class..... I will
keep my eyes focused at a mile and a half. I will keep my eyes focused
at a mile and a half... There's got to be a whale out here somewhere.
Unfortunately, the more turtles and sharks and rays that we see, the
fewer whales we're likely to encounter. Not that we've actually seen
much of anything-- mammal, reptile or fish.
It's been one frontal assault after the next. Low pressure systems
barreling through. Armies of dark angry clouds dumping huge amounts of
hard driving rain across the pine woods, hardwood swamps, suburbs and
strip malls that are north Florida. As these fronts pass offshore,
westerly winds follow as if being dragged along in a rush. The sky clears
and the wind sweeps out to sea, ripping the surface of the water into
shreds, white shards, as far as the eye can see. And that's mostly what
we've been seeing, the shredded surface of the sea.
During the past two weeks we've seen whales twice: a mother/calf pair
on 02/09 and a pair of adults (or large juveniles), first sighted by the
FL-DEP, on 02/19. The two noncalving whales were off Jacksonville Beach.
The mother and calf were in the same area, not too far from the entrance
to the port of Jacksonville. By all accounts, the calf was having a
raucous time- breaching, lobtailing and generally raising hell....
appearing strong and ready for the long swim to New England. It's
entirely possible they're already approaching Cape Cod, having passed
offshore of Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, Norfolk, Baltimore,
Philadelphia and New York City; having crossed the paths of all the
ships coming and going to those towns and metropolises.
I suspect that we've seen most of the whales that we'll see this
winter. During the next couple of weeks, Philip and Amy will identify
the whales we've photographed and I'll let you know which right whales
are making this year's contribution to the existence of the species. As
always, check the website for more info.
All the best from Fernandina Beach.
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